On Publication Day, A Look Back: Ihsan Abdel Kouddous

Ihsan Abdel Kouddous’s I Do Not Sleep appears this month from Hoopoe Fiction, in Jonathan Smolin’s translation.

This marks the first time Abdel Kouddous (1919-1990), one of the most popular Egyptian authors of the twentieth century, has seen a book in wide English release.

The author and journalist was born in CairoEgypt, the child of Mohamed Abdel Kouddous and the great performer and publisher Rose al-Youssef, founder of Rose al-Youssef, a weekly magazine he later edited.

As Raphael Cormack writes in his delightful Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring ’20s:

By the 1940s Rose felt that her time as an editor had run its course. Her son from her first marriage, Ihsan [Abdel Kouddous], was an aspiring writer himself. In 1945 she commissioned him to write an article for the magazine, in which he sharply criticized the British ambassador to Egypt, Miles Lampson. Shortly after the article was published, Ihsan was briefly jailed and the issue banned. After Ihsan’s experience, one so familiar to Rose, she finally deemed him ready to continue her mission. As soon as he got out of jail, Rose appointed him editor in chief at Rose al-Youssef and retired after twenty years in charge and some thirty years of fame.

According to Cormack, in a letter explaining his new role, she gave him several pieces of advice, including never giving way to conceit, always staying young “in thought, heart, and affection,” always fighting oppression and being on the side of the weak against the powerful, and never asking the cost. She ended it, Cormack writes, “Now let your mother rest . . . a little.”

Ihsan both followed the path his mother blazed and set down his own. He wrote at least 60 novels and collections of short stories. Many became movies. Many are still remembered: still read, still borrowed, still printed, still downloaded.

Read more:

An excerpt from I Do Not Sleep

A Talk with Jonathan Smolin: On the Intersections of Abdel Kouddous’s Politics and His Fiction

Ali Shakir: The Silencing of Ihsan Abdel Kouddous

Photos & Films: Ihsan Abdel Kouddous

Two short stories by Abdel Kouddous:

“The Qur’an,” translated by Rahma Bavelaar

“God is Love,” translated by Rahma Bavelaar

Book talks:

January 11, with Jonathan Smolin, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, and M Lynx Qualey

January 27, with Jonathan Smolin and Alaa al-Aswany